The white-tailed deer is one of Minnesota's most recognizable mammals and is a popular big game animal. It is found in every Minnesota county and adapts well to most surroundings.
At the time of European settlement, white-tailed deer in Minnesota existed throughout the wooded river valleys and woodlands of central and southern Minnesota. In northern Minnesota where the forest habitat was much different than it is today, deer were absent or rare. Moose and woodland caribou were the most abundant members of the deer family.
As European settlement cleared forests for lumber and agriculture, deer habitat quality improved through the creation of new openings. Increased agricultural land conversion eventually reduced habitat quality in many areas and, along with market and subsistence hunting, resulted in deer population declines. By the 1880s, deer were rare in many parts of Minnesota.
Natural resource management and regulated hunting has enabled the population to grow. Today, Minnesota is home to about 1 million white-tailed deer.
In 2015, the DNR is revisiting deer population goals in 40 permit areas in northeast, north central and east central Minnesota. These permit areas are grouped into five goal-setting blocks (see map).
Public comment on deer population goals was accepted between January 29 and February 20, 2015, via email, U.S. postal mail, online and written questionnaires, and verbal comments provided at public meetings in each goal-setting block. More than 1,650 comments were received.
In February and March, citizen advisory teams met to review background information (including biological and social data), as well as all of the public input received in their block. Advisory teams then made recommendations to DNR about deer population goals in each of the permit areas in their block. For more information on the advisory team process, view the Advisory Team Process description.
Minnesota DNR accepted public comment on the permit area recommendations from April 2-15, 2015. The comment period is currently closed. Advisory team recommendations and public comment will now advance for consideration and approval by the DNR Commissioner. Any adjustments made to team recommendations will be communicated to the team and public. Announcement of final population goals is anticipated by June, 2015.
To view additional information on each of the goal setting blocks, click on the links in each block heading below or the map at right.
More deer in much of southeastern Minnesota is the anticipated outcome of a citizen-led deer population goal-setting process that increases deer numbers in five of the nine permit areas under review. DNR increased goal densities in deer permit areas 341, 342, 345, 347 and 348. Permit areas 343, 346 and 349 will maintain existing goal densities. Whitewater Wildlife Management Area, permit area 344, will maintain current densities.
Deer hunting – DNR's most-recent information on deer hunting seasons.
Annual compilation of the deer harvest
Southeastern Minnesota landowner survey – This study was conducted to understand private landowners' perspectives on crop damage, deer hunting and deer management, and land use patterns in southeastern Minnesota.
Southeastern Minnesota deer hunter survey – This study sought to gather information from hunters about deer hunting in southeastern Minnesota. Specifically, the purpose of this study was to better understand deer hunting participation and deer management in that part of the state.